LONDON – The final approval of a program to purchase more than 500 Boxer wheeled, armored fighting vehicles for the British Army is now being considered by top officials, according to the Ministry of Defence.
The business case for buying the German-designed 8x8 vehicle was handed over to the MoD’s high-powered Investment Approvals Committee Oct. 22 at the start of a process that could see the deal sealed as early as next month.
“The main gate [business case] has been submitted and is currently being considered through the approvals process,” a ministry spokesman confirmed to Defense News.
The Investment Approvals Committee is the MoD’s senior organization for considering major acquisition proposals.
Assuming the business case can clear the panel, a final deal will likely have to be approved by the defense minister, the Treasury and others ahead of a public announcement that Artec, a joint venture of Rheinmetall and Krauss Maffei Wegmann, has secured the deal.
The timing of a decision for the British Army to get an initial 508 Boxer vehicles could be derailed by the looming prospect of a British general election in December, as the political war over Brexit takes another bizarre twist.
The deal, when it comes, will likely bring to a close at least a 25-year saga of false starts, as the British have launched several wheeled vehicle programs only to abandon them for various reasons.
Even Boxer is a re-selection.
The British were part of a tri-nation program with Germany and the Netherlands to design and build Boxer vehicles but withdrew from the arrangement in 2003 citing changing requirements.
Artec was nominated March 2018 as preferred supplier with its Boxer platform to meet a British requirement, known as the Mechanised Infantry Vehicle program.
The selection sparked controversy when the British opted to acquire the vehicle without a competition, despite high interest from rivals like Nexter of France.
The vehicle will be a key element of two new strike brigades now in the process of being formed by the British Army.
Members of the family of Ajax tracked reconnaissance vehicles , the other crucial component of the new strike formations, are already being delivered to the Army by contractor General Dynamics UK.
The early Boxer deliveries are all scheduled to come off KMW and Rheinmetall production lines in Germany, but as the program gets into its stride increasing amounts of production will be centered on the U.K.
The first British Army Boxer, an infantry-carrier vehicle, is scheduled to be available from the KMW factory in Germany in November 2022.
Rheinmetall’s first production vehicle will be a command variant, set to be complete by February 2023.
By July 2023 the German production lines of the two companies are expected to have delivered 27 vehicles.
Deliveries from the Telford, West Midlands, plant of the recently formed Rheinmetall- BAE Systems joint venture known as RBSL, short for Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land, are set to begin in 2024.
Telford was BAE’s armored-vehicles base in the U.K. before the company threw in its lot with Rheinmetall in mid-2019.
The joint venture does not include BAE’s munitions capabilities in the U.K. or armored-vehicles activities outside of Britain.
The Germans have pledged that 60 percent of the content for Boxers destined for the British Army will be produced locally, with Telford playing a major role.
Among other things, RBSL will be responsible for producing the mission modules for the multi-role armored vehicle.
Thales, Rolls-Royce, WFEL and Parker Hannifin are among the principle companies who are part of British production effort.